In July 2012, CASES launched the Criminal Court Women’s Diversion Program (WDP) to provide an alternative sanction for women charged with misdemeanor offenses in NY County. WDP primarily targets women with mental illness or substance abuse disorders, providing gender-specific mental health and support services to address court-involved women’s distinct needs and risk factors, including children and parenting, histories of abuse and trauma, and threats to personal safety.
For many women, a history of victimization, mood and anxiety disorders, mental illness, and self-medicating/substance-abusing behaviors combine to create a pathway to court involvement. However, prevailing policies, programs, and assessment tools primarily focused on the risks and needs of male offenders. To address the unique needs of court-involved women, WDP provides gender-responsive clinical screening, case planning, three to six months of supportive counseling by qualified clinicians, and mentoring services by a trained peer specialist (a women with previous experiences of mental illness and court-involvement who has achieved stability in the community).
CASES clinical court staff work with judges and attorneys to identify and screen eligible defendants in Criminal Court. Screening includes assessment of mental health and substance use. Those found eligible for WDP are then mandated by the judge to participate in a set number of case management sessions.
During court-mandated case management sessions, WDP staff administer comprehensive, gender-specific and trauma-informed risk/need assessments to identify psychosocial, trauma, and mental health factors, and perceived level and quality of social supports. Based on assessment results, WDP staff develop a case plan for the next three to six months with gender-specific services including: